Family man. Self-starter. Entrepreneur. Winner.
Meet Derrick Barker, senior cornerback for the Harvard Crimson.
“Derrick is the leader of the family,” his sister Dalicia says. “Everyone in our family looks up to Derrick. My uncles and aunts still come to him and ask him for advice to raise their own children.”
The preseason All-American learned to be independent at a young age. The son of a military pilot, Barker was constantly changing towns and schools as a child, including a stretch in Spain from third to fifth grade. Growing up in changing environments, his closest relationships were not with kindergarten friends but with his sisters Dalicia and Danielle.
“We’re each other’s best friends,” Dalicia says. “A lot of things we’ve been through together have made us closer, made us stronger.”
The siblings encountered adversity early, as their mother died of cancer when Derrick was four years old. Their closeness would help them deal with not only the stresses of moving but also with their father’s required absences.
“He’d have to go for extended time [in Spain],” Derrick says. “Every time he’d leave, it seemed like me and my sister would get sick.”
But despite his busy work schedule, Derrick Sr. had a strong influence on his children, especially through athletics. All the Barker children were strong athletes. In her sophomore year of high school, Dalicia was MVP of her cross country team, rookie of the year in track, and captain of the basketball team. Now a sophomore at Spelman College, she is captain of the Majorettes. Danielle was a strong gymnast before switching courses and joining the Majorettes. Derrick, the only boy in the family, followed in his father’s footsteps and took up football at the age of four.
“I don’t remember a time without football,” he says. “It’s a part of my identity... Even when I was in elementary school, there was never a time when I was like, ‘Hmmm, maybe I won’t play football in college.’”
Since arriving at Harvard, Barker has thrived on the gridiron. As a sophomore he led the Crimson in special teams tackles, as a junior he started every game, and this season, heading into the weekend, he ranks second on the team in pass breakups. Barker has also recorded an interception in all four seasons of his collegiate career.
Although successful on the football field, Barker has been anything but one-dimensional. He was undefeated for three years in wrestling before an injury forced him to forfeit the national championships during his post-graduate year at Avon Old Farms. He also experimented in track, basketball, and baseball. Ironically, it was fear of contact that turned Barker away from baseball.
“I got hit by a ball a few times, and you know seven-year-old Derrick just didn’t want to be out there,” he says. “In football, I felt like, ‘I’m faster than all the people trying to get me.’ [In] baseball the ball is faster than me, it is trying to get me, and I’m just like, ‘No. You’re telling me I have to stand in this little box with this guy throwing a ball at me? No.’”
Aside from his aversion to the baseball diamond, Barker has always enjoyed anything that involves competition.
“I like winning a lot,” Barker says. “I will play something I don’t like playing just because I want to win. We had NBA Live when I was little. I did not like that game, but just because I like winning, if someone’s playing and they beat somebody and they start talking trash, I’m like, ‘Know what, I’m going to play just so I can win.’”
That competitive intensity makes him a natural fit for business. The cornerback will be working in trading next year for Goldman Sachs.